D is for diving

2nd May 1997 at 01:00
Who can do it?

You can snorkel from eight years old. The British Sub-Aqua Club allows 12-year-olds to try out SCUBA (aqualungs) in controlled lessons, but 14 is the lower age limit for membership, although this is under debate. BSAC has 1,600 branches and 55,000 members. It offers masses of courses and training at all levels.

A smaller organisation, the Sub-Aqua Association, estimates its membership ("the friendliest divers in the world") at around 8,000 in 370 clubs. Many more people, perhaps 150,000 a year, try out diving on short courses.

Time needed in school to develop skills

Would have to be extra-curricular as initial training takes four to six hours.

Extra-curricular time

Once a week at least, two or more hours. Access to open water may add time.

Physical benefits

Strength, stamina.

Physical risks

There are no two ways about it, diving can be dangerous. Think of Jaws, and if you get the bends it can kill you. You must have a certificate of fitness, be accompanied at all times by a qualified dive leader and under no circumstances play the giddy goat, either under water or out of it.

Social benefits

There is great camaraderie, as you might expect considering your life can depend on your diving companion. The "buddy" system bonds people, encouraging trust and responsibility, and the experience can be a great confidence-builder.

Social disadvantages

Takes up a lot of time, so weekends are in-depth rather than widespread.

Kit

Very expensive. For example, the Proteus diving drysuit, with valve and hose, costs around Pounds 500. A thick, winter wetsuit would cost around Pounds 200, with gloves and boots extra. Other specialist kit includes inflatable jackets, breathing apparatus, masks and fins, weights and knives. Diving clubs or courses can advise or hire out kit at reasonable rates.

Equipment

Here's where you can really splash out - underwater cameras, torches, fancy facemasks, two-way radios. The sky, so to speak, is the limit. A boat would be pretty handy (rigid inflatable boats - RIBs - start at about Pounds 2,000 and go up to Pounds 25,000.) Suppliers

Contact your local branch - there are 120 youth branches in the UK - or the headquarters of one of the main diving organisations.

Premises

Must have regular use of swimming pool to practise.

Insurance

Contact BSAC.

They love it because

The thrill of the deep, the discovery of another world.

They hate it because

If your air runs out . . .

Investment for schools

Yes, via snorkelling with properly qualified instructor. Youth membership is growing, especially through the BSAC Introduction to Diving courses.

British Sub Aqua Club Telford's Quay, Ellesmere Port Cheshire L65 4FY Tel 0151 357 1951Sub Aqua Association 43-45 Pembroke Place Liverpool L3 5PH Tel 0151 707 1111

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